Katize First Nation gathered at Memorial Peace Park in Maple Ridge to recognize, remember and mourn. (The News files)

Katize First Nation gathered at Memorial Peace Park in Maple Ridge to recognize, remember and mourn. (The News files)

Pitt Meadows council calls for action on unmarked graves

First Nations will dictate the course, MLA Beare responds

Pitt Meadows city council wrote senior government representatives, calling for action as unmarked graves are found at residential schools.

“There needs to be accountability, and there needs to be action taken here,” said Dingwall, adding government must help First Nations understand what happened to their children.

”It’s such a tragic situation. Imagine if it was your kids.”

In a letter signed by Dingwall, council asks government to support the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions Call to Action.

“We write this letter regarding the recent announcement from the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation and the results of a survey at the former Residential school in Kamloops B.C., which uncovered the remains of 215 Indigenous children. These findings confirm and support the stories and histories as told by many residential school survivors,” said the letter sent to Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows MLA Lisa Beare and Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge MP Marc Dalton.

“The findings in Kamloops support the suggestion that there will likely be further tragic discoveries at other residential schools.

“We share in the grief of all First Nation people as we collectively honour and mourn the loss of these 215 children.”

Citing the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions Call to Action, the letter from council said the federal and provincial governments must work with other agencies, provinces, and former residential school students to identify and commemorate sites where residential school children were buried, with appropriate ceremonies and markers.

READ ALSO: Katzie First Nation offers statement after residential school graves found

“In order for reconciliation to take place, the truth must be recognized and acknowledged. We feel that by identifying, honouring, and remembering these Indigenous children, it is an important step towards healing.

“Along with our collective outrage, we fully support and call for further action to find, and hold accountable, those who were involved in this unspeakable tragedy,” said the letter, which appeared in the June 22 council agenda.

Beare responded, and her letter was before council at its last meeting on July 6.

“I was horrified and heartbroken to learn that Tk’emlups te Secwepemc reported discovering remains of children at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. So many children were forever taken from families and communities that loved them, and who could not properly mourn them and put them to rest,” she wrote.

But she said the government should take direction from First Nations.

“The work of uncovering burial sites can be very painful and re-traumatizing for members of a First Nation, and reports surrounding a discovery have a deep impact on Indigenous peoples across the province. The decision of how, and when each community wishes to contend with this dark chapter of our shared history is for them to make. It is incumbent on all of us to listen to what Indigenous communities and leaders are saying about what they need. It is not up to the provincial government to speak for them; we follow their lead.”

She noted Victoria recently allocated $12 million for future investigations of residential schools sites.

READ ALSO: Catholics question relationship with church after residential school grave discovery

READ ALSO: B.C. First Nation confirms more than 160 unmarked graves found on grounds near former residential school

Dalton also responded.

“This discovery has, rightfully so, gripped Canadians. And, sadly, it has surely opened many old wounds in our Indigenous communities, from survivors, to families and friends of those who never returned,” he wrote.

“I absolutely agree that Call to Action 75 (from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission) needs to fully implemented and funded as a step towards reconciliation,” added Dalton. “In fact, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole has called for Calls to Action 71 through 76 to be implemented immediately. I have also reached out directly to the Chiefs of Katzie and Kwantlen First Nations, offering whatever support I can provide to help identify any areas where they believe their children may have been buried.”

With future investigation using ground-penetrating imaging, 160 unmarked graves have been found near Ladysmith at Kuper Island Residential school, another 182 at the St. Eugene’s Mission School site near Cranbrook, and 751 in Saskatchewan at the Marieval Indian Residential school.

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City CouncilPitt Meadowsresidential schools